Tony PittsWe were delighted to work with award-winning writer, actor and director Tony Pitts on A Badge, his new drama for BBC Radio 4. Listen to it online and read our interview with Tony below.

You don’t have a personal experience of autism, so what prompted you to create a drama about the lives of mums who have autistic children?

Members of my family have worked in caring roles supporting autistic and learning disabled people and I’ve always admired their passion for their jobs and the care and love they give to other human beings. Carers are extraordinary people. I also drew on an experience which made a great impression on me. I was in a seaside café in Hove and there was a young mum, who was with her autistic son, they were both clearly having a difficult time of it, some of the other customers seemed to be reacting badly to what was happening, and the mum was acutely aware of their stares of disapproval. I remember the look on her face, she seemed weighed down. That image of her stayed with me.

You did lots of research for A Badge and interviewed a number of mums. Did they tell you anything about their day-to-day experience that surprised you?

Just about everything really. I think I had a fixed idea about what autism is. If you don’t have personal experience you don’t realise the complexity, that every autistic person is different. That’s what really struck me.

Grammy award-winning singer Corinne Bailey Rae makes her acting debut in A Badge. How did she find playing Chloe, a character trying to come to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis?

I worked with Corinne on Funny Cow and I knew she would be ideal for the part, she just has the right instincts. She’s a brilliant singer because she can unlock emotions with ease. We recorded with her just two weeks before she had her first baby, so I think that also might have helped her to identify with Chloe’s situation.

Only 16% of autistic people and their families think the public understand autism in a meaningful way. In your narration you refer to the experience of the ‘passing scrunched up faces’ the characters have to deal with when they’re out and about with their children. How do you think A Badge will help the general public understand a little bit more about autistic people and their families?

Of course, I’m not trying to represent everyone’s story, that’s impossible, but I based the script on the lives of the inspirational women who were happy to share their stories with me. I hope I’ve honoured the truth of what they said. And in some small way, I also hope that listeners new to autism, as I was, might just be prompted to respond in a kinder way if they meet a kid like Daniel or Coco on their bus home or in their local café. As Christine says, it’s the small things, just saying ‘something nice’ that can make the world of difference.

Listen to A Badge online

We have lots of information and advice for autistic people and their families on our website. Find out more.